Luke 15:1-10
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
September 11, 2022

There are people who remind you of Jesus.  Bill Adams, the CEO of a large Virginia hospital, is one.

Some time ago, he received a visit from a distraught and desperate woman.  Her mother had spent her last days in his hospital fighting cancer, and had just succumbed to the disease.

As the daughter and her father were paying their last respects prior to the removal of her body, they noticed mother’s wedding ring was missing from her left hand.  The two looked under the bed, around the room and in the bathroom, but did not find it. Tearing up, Dad shook his head and said, “How I wish I could slip the ring back on her finger before we bury her.”

The daughter told Adams, “I was hoping you could do something we can’t and bring peace to my father.”  Adams swore he’d do all he could. In fact, as soon as she left his office, he walked over to the cancer ward to talk with its staff.  They told him the patient had lost so much weight that the ring must have fallen off her finger.  They also told him that the room had just been completely cleaned and that no one reported finding a ring.

Adams returned to his office dejected.  But he refused to quit.  He thought long and hard until an idea grabbed him.  He pulled his raggedy gym shoes out of his car trunk and put them on.  He took off his suit jacket and donned some gloves.  Finally, he descended into the hospital basement, located the dirty laundry chute, climbed into the bin, and pawed through those forbidding piles of soggy, nasty linens.  Eventually, he found the ring and rushed to the family to share the joy with them.

Jesus was criticized for hanging out with morally dirty and even nasty people.  He responded by telling three consecutive parable, the first two of which are twins.  In each of those twin parables, someone so passionately desires some lost thing that they plunge into some nasty corners to find it.

In the first one, a shepherd risks both himself and the rest of his flock to search high and low for his precious lost lamb.  He so passionately desires to find it that he plunges into forbidding, wild and nasty lands, prowled by aggressive predators.  He refuses to quit looking “until he finds it”, the text says.  When he does, he “rejoices” and “calls together…friends and neighbors” for a party worthy of the elation he feels.

In the second parable, a woman loses a drachma, a small silver coin worth about a day’s wages.  Perhaps she is so poor that the loss of a single coin means she’ll go hungry.  Perhaps the coin is from the headdress, adorned with ten drachmas, that Jewish wives wore on special occasions back then, and she’s broken-hearted over its loss because of its sentimental value.  Either way, she passionately desires to have the coin once more, and she plunges into the search for it, which in her case means dealing with the nasty filth of her floor.  For in 1st century Palestinian houses, floors were packed earth covered with dried reeds and rushes.  So she has to sweep up all that “straw”, made dirty by a thousand soiled feet, into piles she can run her fingers through to feel a little coin her eyes might not be able to pick up under the jumble of all those broken pieces of plant cuttings.  But, like the shepherd with his lamb, she refuses to quit looking “until she finds it”, the text says.  Then when she does, she, like the shepherd, “rejoices” and “calls together…friends and neighbors” for a party worthy of the elation she feels.

God is like that woman, like that shepherd, like that hospital CEO.  Lost people are precious to God and God passionately desires to find them and bring them home.  And in His searching, God too refuses to quit looking; and, once He finds His precious lost ones, God too rejoices and calls together His friends and neighbors in heaven for a party worthy of the elation He feels.

These stories depict how God passionately desires each and every one of us, plunges into even into the nastiest places of this world to look for us, and refuses to quit looking, no matter the pains and filth he has to endure in order to keep searching.
Everyone matters to God. So if God matters to us, we’ll join Him in His searching.

Glenn Ey had been enjoying a relaxing two weeks sailing in his yacht when a rogue wave ambushed him.  It flipped his yacht and broke its mast into three pieces.  Ey suddenly found himself lost at sea, helpless and adrift 270 nautical miles off the Australian coast.

The poor man had no way to know that a bunch of bored Air Canada passengers were about to be shaken from their mid-flight stupor by a pilot calling for their assistance in seeking to save some stranger lost at sea.

The plane’s captain, Andrew Robertson, announced that Australian Search and Rescue had requested their help in locating Ey.  As the plane approached the most promising area in which to look, Captain Robertson dropped the plane down to just 5,000’ above a nastily dangerous corner of the ocean.  Admitting it would be like looking for “a needle in a haystack”, he still asked the passengers to scan the waters outside their windows to see if they could spot a boat.  Eventually, several people saw something and cried out.  Robertson dropped the plane down another 1,000’, identified the vessel as Ey’s and reported the coordinates to the coast guard who soon rescued Ey and brought him safely home.

Jesus searches for us when we are lost.  Only He doesn’t just fly overheard, but plunges into the nasty storm waters of our lostness.  Unlike Adams, He does not search all by Himself; but, like Captain Robertson with those Air Canada passengers, He enlists those who travel with Him to join Him in the search and play a vital part in bringing someone lost and precious safely home.

Let us awake from our mid-flight stupor, and crane our necks to look high and low for the lost.  Then let us get out of our seats and plunge into the forbidding seas, if need be.  It’s what the One who passionately desires us all passionately desires from us all.

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